Ann Taylor is on a mission to improve Haitian health care
It’s safe to assume most people aren’t in a big hurry to leave a tropical paradise like Hawaii, what with its world-famous beaches, idyllic climate and breathtaking natural beauty. Then again, Ann Taylor ’95 isn’t most people.
In March of 2010, just a few short weeks after retiring in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, the clinical nurse specialist boarded a plane bound for Port Au Prince, Haiti. A devastating earthquake had just rocked the impoverished nation, and emergency medical service volunteers were needed immediately.
As the number of Haitians wounded or killed multiplied by the day, Taylor, who received both her MSN and PhD from USD, knew she needed to act quickly to put her nursing skills to use and volunteered with the University of Miami’s Project Medishare, a nonprofit organization that dispensed resources to Haiti for the recovery effort.
“You don’t just run blindly into the fray and try to help,” says Taylor, whose volunteer work with HIV/AIDS patients in Tijuana, Mexico, earned her USD’s Bishop Buddy Humanitarian Award in 2005. “That’s counterproductive. There need to be protocols and systems in place.Project Medishare did a great job of allocating their resources effectively. I was proud to be a part of their team.”
Taylor had seen her fair share of suffering during her 40-year nursing career, but nothing prepared her for what she witnessed upon arriving in Port Au Prince. Nearly 220,000 Haitians were dead, and thousands of critically injured were forced to wait days, even weeks, for the medical care they needed.
As if those circumstances weren’t dire enough, Taylor soon found out that the students and faculty members at the city’s nursing school had been killed when the building collapsed to its foundations. The memory of seeing the devastation firsthand still haunts her.
“We got a tour of the city to see the full extent of the damage, and I wanted to see the nursing school,” she says, her voice softening noticeably. “The driver of the car kept telling me I shouldn’t see it. But I was insistent. I’ll never forget it, and I know it’s a driving force behind the work I’m looking to accomplish.”
In the three years since that initial visit, Taylor has returned to Haiti 10 times to continue her volunteer work in the community hospital. She’s also committed to educating local nurses on modern health care practices. “When I got off the plane and started working in the medical tents, it felt like I had stepped back in time 30 or 40 years,” she says. “In just three years, they’ve come such a long way. I know we can help rebuild and repopulate the nursing school, and it makes me hopeful for the future of health care in Haiti.”